Monday, July 14, 2014

Live Entertainment Legal Liabilities

NJ Concertgoers v. Live Nation
Live Nation, the country’s largest live entertainment company faced a class action suit that is potentially going to lose the business millions of dollars in revenue. In 2009, the company was sued for padding ticket prices with an additional parking fee of $6 regardless of whether the ticket holder intended to park at the venue or not. Live Nation argued that the fee was set as a way to alleviate traffic backups. On March 28, 2014, the court approved the settlement. The two men who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the other concertgoers each received $7,500 and the company was ordered to pay $1.7 million in attorney fees. An estimated 363,000 people who purchased their tickets online and attended concerts at the PNC Bank Arts Centre from June 2003 to June 2011, are set to benefit from the settlement. This entitles them to three free lawn seat tickets over a period of four years and a $5 discount on future purchases. The tickets are estimated at $33.25 each. It would cost Live Nation well over $38 million in revenue if all the members of the class applied and received their share of the settlement deal. By the time of approval, only 10% of the members had applied. It is my opinion that the settlement was fair more so for Live Nation, all circumstances considered. However, considering the period over which the lawsuit addressed, the facts of the case, for example member attendance over the seven years would have been important in determining more accurate settlement details.

Sugarland Trial
In 2012, Hellen Rollens, Sugarland’s tour manager was investigated over the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair that left seven people dead and more injured. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rollens had been made aware of the severe weather conditions and instead went ahead to confirm the performance as scheduled. Rollens is reported to have called a prayer circle minutes before the stage collapsed therefore saving the lives of the band members and crew. According to the plaintiff’s attorney, the performers had the final say on whether to cancel the show due to the weather conditions. Sugarland was named alongside the producers, stage riggers and the Indiana State Fair Commission (ISFC) among others. In December 2011, the state of Indiana settled their lawsuit with 63 of the 65 victims who held the state liable. Two years after the tragedy, the company that insured the band’s musical equipment filed a new lawsuit. After extensive depositions, the trial date was set for February 2014 and Jeniffer Nettles and Kristian Bush of Sugarland still denied any responsibility for the incident. According to their attorney, the band was not made aware of the option to delay the show and should not have been held accountable for not refusing to perform. As per the ISFC’s emergency management plan and the artists’ contract, the commission had sole responsibility for alerting individuals and postponing, evacuating or cancelling an event. In light of these documents, Sugarland should not be held liable for the incident.

BMI sues Bar for $1.5M
A cover band performance at “69 Taps at Medina”, a bar in Cleveland has led to the lawsuit in which Broadcast Music, Inc. is seeking a $1.5M in damages. BMI alleged willful copyright infringement for each work, listing ten songs that were performed by the band. In addition, BMI requested an injunction that barred the establishment from playing live music. Nine other music companies that own the musical composition copyrights joined the suit. A license from BMI would provide an establishment such as this legal permission to perform over 8.5 million works that they hold the rights to.
Since BMI maintains that they reached out severally to try and license the business, I believe 69 Taps at Medina had the opportunity to avoid the lawsuit and failed to take it.

As a precaution in my business, I would ensure I had the required documents including contracts and licenses and seek legal advice to avoid such legal ramifications. In addition to this it is important to be well versed with the laws and regulations of the states of proposed venues.

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